Front machine gun abandoned
Note grousers installed to hull rear
Medium Tank T-44, First Production Series
At the end of 1943, the T-34M programme was resumed at Nizhni Tagil, although it was quickly redesignated T-44.
The archaic Christie suspension with its large internal springs was replaced by a more economical torsion bar suspension.
The engine was reoriented in a novel transverse mounting, and a sleek and simple new hull shape was adopted.
The first T-44 prototype was completed in the summer of 1944.
It used a turret derived from the T-34-85, but without the prominent collar at the base, and with thicker frontal armour.
Trials were initiated, but before they were completed it was decided to return the Morozov design team to Kharkov where the former Zavod Nr. 75 Diesel Factory was to be re-established as a tank assembly plant.
Further design work continued there and the T-44 was accepted for production in 1945 as an eventual replacement for the T-34-85.
Up to now, it's unclear whether the T-44 saw any action during WW2, although some sources state that three samples were deployed during the final weeks for testing.
The T-44 offered numerous advantages over the T-34-85 : It was lower and sleeker, better armoured, and potentially even easier to manufacture.
An attempt was made to fit it with a 100mm gun as the T-44-100, but like the similar T-34 effort it was abandoned because of newer developments, in this case a new turret specially designed for the 100mm gun which would result in the T-54 in 1945-46.
About 150-200 T-44s had been completed at Kharkov by the end of the war with a total production of some 965 tanks.
The T-44 formed the basis for the post-war dynasty of the T-54, T-55 and T-62, and T-55 production did not cease at Zavod Nr. 13 in Omsk (formerly Zavod Nr. 174) until 1981.
In many respects, the T-44 was the most advanced medium tank to have emerged from the Second World War.
The initial versions had transmission problems which were rectified in the modernized T-44M after the war.
It did not completely replace the T-34-85 on Soviet production lines until 1947 when the improved T-54 entered production.
Source : Zaloga/Grandsen, »Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two«